SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Every major college program that’s good enough to land four- and five-star recruits end up with some that never quite live up to the hype. With UM spring practice resuming this week, several Canes are trying to shed that tag. Among them:
### Seantrel Henderson: His UM career, through two-plus years, has included at least two violations of team rules, knee and back injuries and an inability to hold onto a starting job (just two starts in eight games last year after returning from back surgery).
“He remains a mystery to me,” said Mike Scanlan, Henderson’s high school coach at Cretin-Derham (Minn.). “I hope he takes advantage of his last years at Miami and gives himself a chance to play on Sundays.”
Why hasn’t he reached elite level? Former teammate Brandon Washington mentioned the back injury but also this: “If he wants to be an All-Pro, he’s got to get his priorities right. He could be a top 10 pick." Washington said Henderson (a five-star recruit) and Malcolm Bunche (a four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com) have "got to take it more seriously. If they don’t live off the hype and get after it more, they will be good players.” (Bunche has been the first team left tackle throughout spring practice.)
One UM person said Henderson cannot assume he will dominate opponents merely because of physical ability. Offensive line coach Art Kehoe said Henderson “has to learn coach Golden wants to run this team in a certain fashion and get done what he has to get done. Because he made a couple mistakes, he knows his clock is running now.”
Golden puts it this way: “Seantrel needs to believe in and trust a process that will allow him to be the best player he can be. He has a good heart.”
Henderson got off to a poor start this spring, with a two-day suspension March 3-4. "It was my mistake," he said Saturday. "I was angry about."
But since then, there have been encouraging signs. He has regained his first-team spot at right tackle, ahead of Jermaine Johnson. Golden said Henderson is stronger and better conditioned than last year, and Kehoe said his work habits are “much better than when I got here," though Kehoe wants to “raise the bar” further.
Speaking publicly for the first time since last season, Henderson said Saturday, "I'm growing. I'm still trying to make the change moving from Minnesota to Miami. It's two different coaches. It's just a change from Randy Shannon leaving. We're getting used to how coach Golden runs the program, and we'll be a better team because of it. The way he runs the program, I'm all with it.''
Henderson admits being the nation's No. 2 overall recruit in 2010 "is still pressure because people don't forget." He said after he returned from back surgery last season, "I felt fine but my confidence wasn't all the way up.'' He briefly left Saturday's scrimmage with a knee injury but returned and said he's fine.
As a player, “I don’t think he’s anywhere near where he can be,” Kehoe said. Henderson agrees: "I'm still far away. I still got a lot to work on, completing my whole game. I'm better at run-blocking" than pass-blocking.
Last word from Kehoe: “I think he’s going to have a breakout year.”
### Vaughn Telemaque and Ray-Ray Armstrong. They’ve talked for years about being the nation’s top safety tandem, but they have only a year left to get there. “They were tentative and apprehensive last year,” ex-Cane safety Bennie Blades said. “We’re waiting for them to be impact players like Sean Taylor and Ed Reed. I’m optimistic.”
Telemaque, a four-star recruit, has been a solid starter but hasn't created as many turnovers as some expected (four career interceptions); remember, he was known as a big-time ball-hawk as a highly recruited high school player in California.
Armstrong, a five-star recruit, took a step back last year when he was suspended twice. He also was responsible in coverage for four touchdown passes. “I didn’t play how I was supposed to,” he said. “There were a lot of distractions last year. I wasn’t really into it.”
Is it reasonable to expect both to be elite? “I think it is,” defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said. “It’s up to them. It’s natural not just for those guys but for college players that they want to work on the things they already do well but don’t want to work on the things they need to fix. It’s their job to trust the coaching, put their egos aside and fix it.”
D’Onofrio and Golden are encouraged. "Armstrong has been really impressive this spring," Golden said. "We need him to be a play-maker." ESPN's Todd McShay said he has first-round talent.
And “in fairness to those guys, I’m their third coordinator,” D’Onofrio said. We’ve asked them to do more stuff than they did previously.”
### Brandon McGee. The team’s only senior cornerback and the fastest player on defense, McGee (a four-star recruit) opened spring on the third-team because of subpar work in the offseason program. Golden is demanding more from him, especially in man coverage.
“He has long arms, elite speed; now he’s got to be a more physical corner,” Golden said. “We’re working with him to be a tougher kid in terms of tackling.”
### Unlike those above, some other highly-coveted recruits have made virtually no impact. Golden expects tight end Dyron Dye, who came with Armstrong from Sanford Seminole High, to “help us as a physical blocker. Big, strong, physical kid.” Though UM could use help at defensive end, Golden said Dye (a four-star recruit) will not be switched back there because his skill set is better for tight end…
Johnson, a four-star recruit, lost 14 pounds and “looks completely different than all last year,” Golden said. Said Johnson: “I’m more committed. I have a kid on the way and had to make a change.”… Jeremy Lewis, a four-star recruit who moved over from defensive tackle, has impressed this spring battling Jon Feliciano at left guard. “It’s going to be a close race,” Golden said.
### For a dozen news and notes from Saturday's UM scrimmage, see our previous post.
### For Dolfans already thinking ahead to the possibility of Miami drafting Ryan Tannehill (which might require trading up from No. 8), a couple points to keep in mind: 1) Texas A&M receivers dropped 64 passes in 2011. If half of those had been caught, his completition percentage would have been a very good 67.6, not 61.6. 2) He had 15 interceptions (to go with 29 touchdowns), and ESPN’s KC Joyner said it could have been much worse. “In the Texas game along, he had three interceptions and four near interceptions.” He was just 20 for 49 in that game, for 224 yards.
Said NFL Network’s Mike Mayock: “I like everything about him except he stares his receivers down and waits for them to come open until he rips it.”
Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, his coach at Texas A&M, has given him an endorsement, saying that "great quarterbacks" make their offensive system better, and adding that Tannehill and Aaron Rodgers do that. Despite only having 19 career starts, Tannehill's NFL transition - if the Dolphins pick him - would be so much easier because he played in Sherman's West Coast offense. That's one reason he said he would love to end up here.
### Among the players the Dolphins have summoned to team headquarters for early April visits: UCF cornerback Josh Robinson (a potential second- or third-rounder who ran the fastest time at the Combine, a 4.33) and Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas (a potential late-rounder). Thomas is an elusive, dynamic athlete who threw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, but many wonder how he will adjust to the NFL after playing in Oregon's unorthodox spread offense.
### According to a friend of several players, some Dolphins players are frustrated and puzzled that Miami dropped key contributors (Brandon Marshall and Yeremiah Bell) and wonder what the game plan is to replace them. Don't underestimate Bell's off-field value, either. As Jared Odrick said on Twitter, "Yeremiah was a mentor to me and a lot of guys."
### Check out the Dolphins page for our story about two veteran starters visiting Dolphins camp Saturday: guard Jake Scott and outside linebacker Philip Wheeler. Scott, a quality starter for the Titans, would be a major pickup if the Dolphins can sign him. Wheeler, who started 11 games for the Colts, would have a solid chance to beat out Koa Misi for a starting job, if he signs.
### With Derek Fisher choosing to sign with the Thunder instead of the Heat, the Heat hopes Norris Cole recaptures his early-season magic. He has shot 16 for 55, with 21 assists and 16 turnovers, since the All-Star break. One scout said: "I thought Cole was a little overhyped early. He's got a chance to be a good backup point guard, but he's a little wild sometimes. His decision making is a question."
Cole can get to the basket consistently but has shot 52 percent in shots at the rim; LeBron James, by contrast, is at 77 percent. "Teams are trying to limit my speed," he said, adding he's picking his spots more and "playing more at a controlled pace now." But Shane Battier said: "We don't put a harness on him. We tell him to go, go, go. As a rookie, some nights you get [high performance] and some nights you don't. If you don't, you put Mario Chalmers back in."
### Of the big men released or bought out, one Eastern Conference scout said Miami got the best fit in Ronny Turiaf: "He gives them a little more offensively than Joel Anthony, can defend, decent rebounder but not a volume rebounder. He is a good and willing passer. Borias Diaw is more talented but disgustingly out of shape. Ryan Hollins isn't any good."
### Regrettable: Antoine Walker, who squandered $110 million in NBA earnings, sold his 2006 Heat NBA Championship ring for $21,500 to pay back creditors as part of a bankruptcy settlement. The ring initially cost more than $30,000.
### The Marlins are delighted that Carlos Zambrano is throwing harder than he has the past two years, according to management. He has 17 strikeouts in 14 spring innings after posting a career-low 6.2 per nine innings with the Cubs last year. The Marlins hope it was an anomaly that opponents hit .276 against Zambrano last year, much higher than his .235 career average. One concern: He has been dreadful against the Braves and Phillies since 2009.